5 Available Players Still Within Reach for the New York Yankees

Anthony Maimone@@amaimone4Featured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

5 Available Players Still Within Reach for the New York Yankees

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    As expected, the New York Yankees have been at the center of just about all free-agent activity.

    Whether it has been signing several of the top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran or losing a pair in Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, players have been on the move early this winter.

    The loss of Robinson Cano specifically leaves the Yankees with somewhat of a hole on the infield and extra cash to still spend.

    I expect action to slow down a bit heading into the winter meetings. However, the Yankees still have plenty of work to do before all is said and done.

    I say the big splashes are behind us and finding the right pieces to complete a championship roster will be on general manager Brian Cashman's to-do list.

1. Omar Infante

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    The moment that Robinson Cano officially signed with the Seattle Mariners, ending his time with the New York Yankees, Brian Cashman was quick at work looking for his replacement.

    The best fit all along has been 32-year-old Omar Infante.

    Even before the loss of Cano, the Yankees showed significant interest in Infante.

    The problem earlier was that Infante only wanted to sign with a team that could guarantee him everyday at-bats.

    With a hole at second and still plenty of question marks on the left side of the infield, getting Infante everyday at-bats won't be an issue.

    The only issue the Yankees will have in signing Infante is with the Kansas City Royals. The two teams seem to be the favorites for his services.

    The two teams already squared off this offseason for Carlos Beltran. The Yankees will hope for a similar result.

2. Stephen Drew

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    The Yankees would prefer to sign Omar Infante and plug him in every day at second base.

    Their backup plan may be to sign another former Boston Red Sox in shortstop Stephen Drew.

    The drawbacks to Drew is that he is a Scott Boras client and will cost more than I'm sure the Yanks would want to pay.

    He would also cost another draft pick after rejecting the qualifying offer from the Sox.

    The 30-year-old Drew batted .253 with 13 home runs last season for the Sox.

    More importantly, he was second among all American League shortstops in fielding percentage at .984.

    If the Yanks signed him, they could rotate him around three infield spots and have him ready for an everyday spot at third or short in a worst-case scenario.

3. Masahiro Tanaka

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    The Yankees have fixed a lot of issues on the offensive side of their lineup. Now it's time to turn their attentions to their pitching staff.

    Hiroki Kuroda got it started by re-signing for one year worth up to $16.5 million.

    The next guy the Yankees would love to pick up would be Masahiro Tanaka.

    The Rakuten Golden Eagles have decided they will post Tanaka if he chooses he wants to leave for MLB.

    Reports say that the team will have discussions in the next few days to try to convince Tanaka to stay.

    Thanks to the new posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball, if Tanaka does decide to be posted, the maximum posting fee is only $20 million.

    A grave difference from the uncapped posting fees of years past.

    The 25-year-old pitcher would be a huge pickup for the Yankees in rebuilding their aging and depleted staff.

4. Matt Garza

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    The Yankees' Tanaka backup plans in all certainty seem to be 30-year-old Matt Garza.

    No stranger to the AL East thanks to his time with the Rays, Garza has been a target of the Yankees for a few years.

    Now available as a free agent without a draft pick attached to his name, he is more attainable than ever.

    With a lifetime ERA of 3.84, Garza is a perfect third or fourth starting pitcher.

    Garza is a big-time strikeout pitcher, something the Yankees don't have enough of, striking out 197 batters in 2011.

    Last year, he struck out 136 batters in 155 innings split between the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers.

    It worries me how much the Yankees might have to pay him, as he is not a top-flight starter, but he is one of the best available.

    If the Yanks lose out on Tanaka, they will need another starter somewhere. They have money to spend, and I see them spending it on someone like Garza.

5. Grant Balfour

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    With Brian Cashman still not fully committing the closer job to David Robertson, that still means signing a replacement for Mariano Rivera is in the works.

    The Yankees have been linked to having interest in Oakland Athletics closer Grant Balfour.

    Balfour, the polar opposite of a demeanor that Mo displayed in pinstripes, would be a fiery addition to the Yankees bullpen.

    With Joe Nathan signing in Detroit, most scouts suggest Balfour is the top available closer on the market.

    To me, signing a guy like Balfour would be a benefit in more ways than one.

    To begin with, Balfour is a highly capable closer, saving 62 games over the past two seasons with Oakland.

    Additionally, bringing in a free-agent closer could mean the Yanks could use Robertson as trade bait.

    The Yanks have very few big-league trade chips, and creating one by signing another guy has its benefits.

    I like Robertson and think he can handle the closer job, but if we could maybe package Brett Gardner and Robertson for a starter they need and can't find in free agency, I like that idea better.